Homecoming Parade!

(Torah Portion Vayailech) Homecoming Parade!

Homecoming parades for championship winning sports teams are very exciting and triumphant. Thousands cheer their teams for clinching the series and for their diligent and professional skill throughout the season. But have you ever heard of tens of thousands coming to cheer and laud a group of people for not doing their regular job for an entire year?

Believe it or not, this recently happened in Israel. The headlines read, ‘Tens of Thousands gather at Bnei Brak Parade to Cheer Farmers who Observed Shemita.’ This past year was the Shemita – Sabbatical year – when over 3300 famers in Israel left their fields fallow to observe the laws of Shemita as the Torah prescribes. They did not perform any productive work in their fields and they did not conduct commerce with the produce that grew. The Sabbatical year allows the land owners to take a year off and reconnect deeply with G-d through the study of His Torah.

For a land owner and his family to refrain from their normal conduct for the entire year and observe Shemita requires tremendous strength. There are major financial considerations such as laying off workers, land and equipment payments, and of course the loss of income. Yet, they rely on G-d’s promise that they will be met with special blessings. Tens of thousands came out to greet the farmers from throughout Israel to celebrate and laud their awesome accomplishment – of refraining from working!

In this week’s parsha, the Torah speaks of the mitzvah of Hakel, which is performed in the Temple in Jerusalem once every seven years. On the second day of the Holiday of Sukkos which immediately follows the Shemita year, such as this year, all men, women and children were required to gather in the Temple to listen to the king of Israel read from selected portions of the Torah.

Me’am Loaiz explains that because they both have similar themes, it is appropriate to have this gathering on the heels of Shemita and within the holiday of Sukkos.

The law of Shemita, which requires us to leave the land alone during the Sabbatical year, inculcates within the land owner in Israel that the land ultimately belongs to G-d, and the holiday of Sukkos, which requires us to leave our permanent residence and dwell in a temporary hut, also serves to remind us, that our lives and the property we amass are only temporary. The only acquisitions that have permanence are those which we acquire in the spiritual realm.

The awesome Hakel gathering in the Temple was a unique ‘homecoming’ celebration for all the people of Israel – providing them all with inspiration, appreciation and motivation as they return home to resume their work, employment, trade and skills. In a world that is continuously motivated by work, creativity and innovation, a Jew is always reminded of the Source of his blessing and talents by capping the week off with observing the Shabbos.

During the weekly Shabbos we also exercise restraint by not performing creative activities over the 25 hours of Shabbos, which inculcates within us the understanding that all our blessings are directly channeled to us through the Almighty.

This Shabbos is called Shabbos Shuvah – the Shabbos of return. The primary reason is because this energized Shabbos is sandwiched between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when we are more diligent and attentive to its sanctity, and we can thus repair all the Shabbos’ of the year which may have been neglected. Shem Mishmuel tells us that there is a special nature to Shabbos that contains extraordinary powers of Teshuva – repentance. The letters that form the word Shabbos can also spell Tashuv – repentance.

The experience of an enjoyable and sanctified Shabbos enables one to return to the Source without going through the normal procedure of repentance. For example, confession is not recited on Shabbos, yet, the beautiful Heavenly gift of Shabbos helps one who is repentant to return.

The Chidushai Harim o.b.m. tells us that just as the Torah instructs us when we enter the holy day of Shabbos to view all of our work as if it was completed, so too, when we are enveloped by the Shabbos we are to view the spiritual downs and challenges we experienced during the week as if they ended – and allow ourselves to bask in the glory of Shabbos without being bogged down by our spiritual disappointments during the week.

The Talmud relates that Rebbe Meir states: One who visits a sick person on Shabbos should say, “May the Shabbos itself have mercy and bring your recovery.”

Says the Shem Mishmuel, “If the Shabbos has the power to heal one’s physical ailments, certainly it has the power to heal one’s wounded soul!”

Avoiding the performance of creative activities on Shabbos, enables us to refocus on what is truly essential in life, thus the sanctified powers of Shabbos radiate and inspire us for a sincere Homecoming!

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid Saks